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Man who jumped out of car on freeway in Pearl City identified

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  • Keala Anson Leong. Pleaded guilty for attempted burglary in the John Latchum murder case. Photo from the Hawaii state Department of Public Safety. August 2001.

The Medical Examiner’s office has identified the 33-year-old Ewa Beach man, who jumped out a moving car Jan. 31 on the H-1 Freeway near the Waipahu offramp and was run over and killed by a passing car, as Keala Leong.

Leong was with a group of men who tried to break into a cabin at the Waianae Army Recreation Center in June 1998. Army helicopter pilot John Latchum Jr. was shot in the heart with a .22 caliber rifle. Latchum was on vacation with his wife and their two children.

Leong pled guilty to attempted burglary in exchange for prosecutors dropping a murder charge. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Two other men were convicted of murder. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2003 reversed the murder convictions on a 2-1 vote, saying U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor made a mistake in not allowing the defense to introduce the possibility that someone else fired the shot that killed Latchum. Their sentences were later reduced to 25 years under a sentencing agreement rather than life without parole.

Police are looking for the driver of the car that hit the Leong and did not stop, following the 9:45 p.m. accident. The incident occurred as the car, driven by a woman, was traveling west on the H-1 Freeway. Leong died at the scene.

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